Global Trader: Russian Stocks Catch Pneumonia But Europe Feels The Chill

I hope my negativity on Russian stocks convinced you not to buy what could have otherwise looked like a tempting dip. As of this week, Moscow is no longer an investable market and remains shut even to local capital.

That’s always the worst-case scenario when you’re dealing with foreign stocks: the businesses can be world-class, but there’s always the possibility that a sudden political shift will trap your money overseas, with no easy way to get it out.

And that’s exactly what’s happened in Moscow. I don’t know when the market will reopen. Neither do the locals who can’t liquidate their investments.

That initial dip before the Moscow Stock Exchange shut down was a bullet that I hope you dodged. Odds are good at this point that even indirect vehicles like Russia-focused ETFs will wind down and return whatever money they can.

After all, they can’t liquidate. They can’t even buy new Russian stock if for some reason investors thought they had an angle and wanted to take a chance.

They’ve come to a dead stop. As we’ve learned in the last few weeks, that’s a vulnerable position when you can’t reach the exit.

But the larger question is more interesting. How widely will Moscow’s pain spread across other global markets?

We’ve already seen the contagion cloud Wall Street. Even half the world away, yet another instable situation is not what U.S. stocks needed right now.

European economies are directly exposed to any disruption of Russian fuel flow. Many of their leading consumer companies rely on Russian elites for at least part of their luxury sales.

And luxury is the equivalent of Silicon Valley across a wide swathe of the modern European landscape. I wondered why the French market was down 18% YTD . . . until I remembered how that market is put together.

Yes, Airbus SE (EADSY) is a world-class company at roughly $95 billion in market capitalization. But Hermes International (HESAY) is significantly bigger. Scarves evidently beat jets in the French market.

And then L’Oreal (LRLCY) weighs in at roughly double Hermes . . . while LVMH Moet Hennessy Vuitton SE (LVMUY)   is easily as big as both of its rivals put together.

While German companies tend to aim a little lower in the Russian market, a trade embargo hurts Adidas AG (ADDYY) and Puma SE (PUMSY), Porsche Automobile Holding SE (POAHY) and Mercedes Benz Group (DMLRY).

Meanwhile, Germany relied more than most on Russian gas to keep the lights on in its factories. Berlin is working overtime to line up new supplies, but it’s going to cost them.

These are big economies. Their vulnerabilities will fester across borders while corporate leadership pivots away from lost Russian customers.

Western Europe accounts for over 60% of global portfolios like the MSCI EAFE ETF (EFA), even though you’re also getting exposure to developed Asian economies and Australia. The biggest holding of EFA is Nestle SA (NSRGY), which says it all, really.

If it gets cold for European consumer stocks in the next few months, EFA is going to have a hard time being anything but dead money. Don’t consider this a safe haven.

There are great companies in Europe . . . but you can buy them on their own, and might not need to do it immediately. Think Big Pharma like Sanofi SA (SNY).

Think Big Oil. Yes, there are oil stocks in Europe. TotalEnergies SE (TTE) has been hit hard by the general Euro backlash, but will rebound faster when the French realize they need energy independence.

Eni SpA (E) is also worth buying on dips. Are these stocks we tend to associate with Europe? Maybe we should start associating the future of Europe with these stocks.